Arthur F.Holmes: "But there is more to morality than doing what is right and good." What does he mean by this?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arthur F. Holmes was a noted professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College, in Illinois, spending his entire professional career there, relocating to the U.S. from England to earn his degrees in the 1950s.

As noted in the question, "in its normative sense," morality—in the past—often has been regarded simply as...

...whatever (if anything) is actually right or wrong, which may be independent of the values or mores held by any particular peoples or cultures.

In a more modern context, morality, in terms of philosophy, generally has come to be defined as...

...the most important code of conduct put forward and accepted by any group, or even by an individual. 

However, in studying Holmes' perception of morality, it is my understanding that he was concerned (and believed all people should be) with more than "doing" what was right or good. This seems to be the essence of Holmes' philosophical view of morality: for doing is not what is paramount. He rejects the concept of understanding and living one's life around doing based a momentary choice; instead he suggests it is a process that, when adopted, does not suggest a choice but a way of life. Holmes focused especially on...

…a broad understanding of and commitment to the task of distinctively Christian scholarship.

The element of Christianity clarified that this morality was tied directly to one's faith or religious beliefs. He was deeply concerned that...

...students...think systematically and deeply as Christians about human thought and experience.

 His pairing of philosophy with religion is an interesting one: he suggested that one should have a "biblical view" of the world, but that he (or she) should also be ready to adopt "sound logic, for testing what he hears by rational means." It seems that "blind faith" was not a part of Holmes' philosophy. And also the process of accepting a life observing morality was not just a choice in a given situation to do what was right, but the adoption of such beliefs on a deeper level, exercised instinctively rather than on a "case by case" basis, as "doing" may suggest. In other words, morality is a "foundational" concept, an unconscious adoption of action, that is centered upon one's faith and not society's views or expectations. Each person should question with logic and rationality all that he hears. And there should never be a question of making a decision at one particular moment with regard to morality in that situation only, but that it is unwavering and solid—forever in place and never open to alteration based upon unique circumstances.

For Holmes, the act of morality was not something that had to be studied each time a question or choice was presented: it was the "integration of faith and learning," on a purely instinctive level. Holmes saw this as a crucial element for all persons, regardless of college major or eventual profession.

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